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Thomas Merton Part 2

Posted by nazarenepsalm113 on June 23, 2009

Quoting Jacob Needleman (p.110), Lost Christianity, (a Bantam New Age Book):
In the quarter of a century that Merton lived as Trappist monk at Gethsemani, Kentucky, he delivered a tremendous body of written work dealing with Christian mysticism, the contemplative tradition, monasticism, and the Eastern religions, particularly Zen, which he felt had a crucial role to play in the West by revealing the contemplative, mystical core of normal human life and therefore of the Christian tradition as well.

One of Merton’s last essays, “The New Consciousness,” begins, “Christian renewal has meant that Christians are now wide open to Asian religions, ready, in the words of Vatican II, to “acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral goods” found among them.*

But “it is not that simple.” Merton proceeds to list the strong activistic, secular and anti-mystical tendencies that militate against the recovery of contemplative Christianity in the West. Zen, to Merton is the best hope because it rejects all doctrinal dispute and offers itself as something completely unclassifiable in familiar Western theological, moral or philosophical terms. “The real drive of Buddhism is toward an enlightenment which is precisely a breakthrough into what is beyond system, beyond cultural and social structures, and beyond religious rite and belief… What this means then is that Zen is outside all structure and forms.” *(Zen and the Birds of Appetite, pp. 4-5).

Zen according to Merton, offers us the pure act of seeing, pure consciousness. It is this, Merton writes, that is the real meaning of knowledge in meditation and contemplation leading to salvation in Christ.”

“The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion .. . . It is beyond words . . We are already one.”

Thomas Merton

Below are additional quotes by Merton:

“And in the last public utterance of his life, delivered on the day of his death in Bangkok, he said: ‘And I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have.” quote from the book, Lost Christianity by Jacob Needleman, p.112.

Toward the end of his life, Merton developed an interest in Buddhist and other Far Eastern approaches to mysticism and contemplation, and their relation to Christian approaches. He was attending an international conference on Christian and Buddhist monasticism in Bangkok, Thailand, when he was accidentally electrocuted on 10 December 1968.

According to a website dedicated to Merton:
In 1968 a meeting occurred in the Himalayas between the two most influential monks of the 20th century, a meeting that would shape the dialogue between the worlds of East and West a meeting between His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton. Shortly thereafter Merton unexpectedly died prompting the Dalai Lama to commit the remainder of his life to fulfilling Merton’s wish of bringing the worlds of East and West together in compassion. This commitment resulted in the historic Gesthsemani Encounter in 1996 at the Abbey of Gethsemani, home of the late Thomas Merton, attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and world leaders of the Eastern and Western religious traditions.

Why would some mystical experiences lead individuals in an ecumenical interfaith direction?
That’s a question you need to ask yourselves as many enter the Emergent Church and its experiences.


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